San Cristobal Mockingbird – A Single Island Endemic.

San Cristobal Mockingbird

by Rich Hoyer on February 22, 2011 · 1 comment

in Birding Neotropics

As I promised, here is just one last post from my WINGS tour this past November – our tour’s extension to one island we didn’t visit during the regular one-week cruise, San Cristóbal.

There are four species of mockingbirds in the Galapagos  – three of which are single-island endemics and one of which is more widespread. They used to be called by the English names of the islands – such as Chatham Mockingbird. But a proposal to the South American Checklist Committee passed in December 2006 to use the Ecuadorian names for the islands on which they occur.

After saying goodbye to part of the group from the week’s cruise, the rest of us boarded a speed boat taxi for the 2-hour ride to the large, eastern island of San Cristóbal.

Our first stop was lunch – at the organic farm belonging to the parents of our local guide, Maria Betancourt.

Maria accompanied us to the high elevations of the island, known as El Junco. It was rather foggy here, so we only barely saw the Magnificent Frigatebirds as they came in to bathe in the freshwater lake. But we were rewarded with sightings of Black-necked Stilt, Whimbrel, and Peregrine Falcon in the wetlands across the highway.

We then went to the tortoise enclosure (actually larger than your typical city park), and saw our first of several San Cristobal Mockingbirds.

Small Ground-Finch was common everywhere we went.

The tortoises here are allowed to mate, lay eggs in natural nests, and the eggs allowed to hatch naturally. Once the young appear, they are then taken to cages where they have a better chance of surviving before being released back into the wild.

The endemic Lava Lizard here is quite distinctive – the other species don’t have such obvious stripes.

The Yellow Warblers here were just as confiding as elsewhere, despite the long history of human habitation here. This was the first island that Darwin landed on.

We even had a bit of time to visit the displays at the national park visitor center.

It was then time for our flight back to Quito, all of us sorry to say goodbye to this wonderful place.

Photo at top: San Cristobal Mockingbird by Rich Hoyer

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